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03:54 AM
Monica Simms
Monica Simms
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U.S. Plays Catch-Up with Europe in WAP Mobile Phones for Financial Services

Two European firms are within months of providing trading over so-called WAP (wireless access protocol) phones.

Two of Europe’s leading financial firms, NCB Stockbrokers and investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Benson (DrKB) have extended their delivery channels to enable internal and external users to access stock quotes and account information over mobile phones, and are within months of providing trading over the so-called WAP (wireless access protocol) phones as well.

WAP was created to provide access to the Internet and promote compatibility across phones and other mobile devices.

Having recently completed the translation of the bank’s firm-wide data to XML, DrKB provides personalized “portable portals” over PCs and laptops, as well as PDAs and WAP phones, the first of which were shipped in October. Says DrKB assistant director of IT architecture Ian Rosarius, “This means we can focus on our information assets rather than worry about custom software or avenues of delivery.”

DrKB uses Dublin-based Macalla Software’s DynamiX tools for building XML e-commerce solutions that can be delivered over WAP devices, including mobile phones. NCB Stockbrokers said they would also deploy Macalla’s Mobility software to provide clients with financial services such as stock quotes and account access over WAP devices.

WAP application development is forging full steam ahead in Europe where mobile phone penetration is the highest in the world. Europe has also gained momentum in deploying financial Web applications over mobile phones, which haven’t yet made as much of a splash on this side of “the pond.” This momentum is largely because Europe has a uniform standard for wireless communications, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications), while the U.S. has a fragmented market of numerous wireless technologies including GSM, TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). However, GSM has problems of its own. It is considerably more expensive than the other standards and it has trouble transmitting large packets of information, according to Devin Wenig, managing director of Reuters Information.

Jupiter Communications analyst David Morris says that PDAs and handheld PCs currently outnumber Web-enabled phones here in the U.S., but as mobile phones increasingly ship with WAP browsers, consumers will choose them over PDAs by the end of next year.

For financial services, Morris says more firms are planning to follow the lead of Ameritrade, which recently entered into a deal with Sprint to provide Sprint’s wireless Web customers with access to the online brokerage’s Web site. Moreover, Morris says that Europe will be the main market to see a majority of new WAP applications for financial services, but the U.S. will be close behind. “Ameritrade was first out of the gate in the U.S., but people are very interested in what’s happening with the stock market. And while we expect PDA penetration to grow, we think people will more frequently use WAP phones to interact with brokerage firms.”

With prospects for WAP phone providers and software suppliers bright, particularly here in the nascent U.S. market, companies like Macalla Software are hoping to take a piece of the pie when that happens. Niall O’Cleirigh, ceo of privately held Macalla, says, “We’re in the process of raising additional funds to grow the company from primarily a European focus to include the Americas as well.”

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